Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spirit, Mind and Body

It would seem that mind and body would be enough, wouldn't it? There are your physical actions and your decisions- what more need be said? You hear about spirit a lot in martial arts and in the military and even in sports. Some talk vaguely about training or forging spirit but no one seems to have a hard definition.

Mind and body aren't enough to explain it. Spirit may be vague, but it is there. It is one of those things you see in negative space, see in a strange action or the absence of an expected action. Like astronomers finding a planet they can't see by the wobble in one they can.

The simple fact is that if mind and body were enough to explain human behavior in combat, people would do the right thing. At least they would do the sensible thing. But after you have watched videos or experienced yourself a moment when you know that if you do not act and act now you will surely die and you were unable to move, mind and body alone don't explain that. Hence we talk about spirit.

It may be many things or one thing or a combination of things. Body includes the chemical responses to fear that affect cognition and the brain. Spirit may be as simple as a quality of the grey area, neither body or mind but how they effect each other. In this case a strong spirit may be as simple as a weak chemical flow or a neural insensitivity. Strong spirit may be a side effect of greater separation between mind and body.

(Aside: I've often wondered about pain. If I can run with a broken fibula and another person is crying and can't stand am I dealing with the pain better? Or just feeling it less? Is 'toughness' a mental strength or a sensitory weakness?)

Is it the matter of pre-conscious social conditioning? Is it voices in the head from early childhood telling you not to hit and how good children behave?

Do people have different resistances to new things? Lonnie Athens talks about stepping off the blue print, that no matter how often or hard you have trained, you are subconsciously aware that none of that was real and this, the real deal, is. Hence the hesitation and that all people to some extent, are reluctant to push their envelope. Is this reluctance variable? Everyone is afraid to do X but some people find the fear different or less inhibiting? Or some find acting easier than others (sounds similar but actually very different, a 'brakes weak' versus 'engine strong' comparison).

Do different people find training more real than others? Does blind faith in your system increase your ability to take chances with it? Can spirit just be (or just be mimicked by) an ability to ignore facts and trust what you have been told? I find that thought disturbing.

How much of spirit is inate, how much conditioning? How do genetics and experience interact?

When three people stand when thousands run, perhaps one read too many King Arthur stories as a child; one was afraid people would talk; and one was too adrenalized to know that the others had run and didn't have enough brain working to think of it himself. From the outside, all would look like courage (not exactly the same as spirit but one of the signs) even though the reasons and internal states were very different.

It would be interesting to see what each of us have done to forge our spirits and determine which of the possible conditions we were subconsciously trying to affect. Maybe see how well it worked and where, when and how it didn't. Hmmmmm.

1 comment:

Kai Jones said...

Maybe some run because they understand the situation better: it's possible to run, and the alternative is letting the bad guy control the situation.